Burglary Prevention Advice
Your home is your castle...or is it? Are you really safe once
your get home and lock your door? In an open society your
home should be the sanctuary for you and your family. Your
home is the only environment where you have control over who
can get close to you or your family. Protecting your home
and family from criminal intrusion should be high on your
list of priorities. See my web site on Family Security Tips
for more information on protecting your family from harm.
By far, the most common threat to our home is burglary. According
to the FBI, a burglary occurs somewhere in the United States
every 15.4 seconds. By definition, the crime of burglary is
a non-confrontational property crime that occurs when we are
not at home. However, becoming a burglary victim can leave
a family feeling vulnerable and violated. To avoid becoming
a burglary victim, it is important to first gain an understanding
of who commits them and why.
The majority of home and apartment burglaries occur during
the daytime when most people are away at work or school. The
summer months of July and August have the most burglaries
with February having the fewest crimes. Burglaries are committed
most often by young males under 25 years of age looking for
items that are small, expensive, and can easily be converted
to cash. Favorite items are cash, jewelry, guns, watches,
laptop computers, VCRs, video players, CDs and other small
electronic devices are high on the list. Quick cash is needed
for living expenses and drugs. Statistics tell us that 70%
of the burglars use some amount force to enter a dwelling,
but their preference is to gain easy access through an open
door or window. Ordinary household tools like screwdrivers,
channel-lock pliers, small pry bars, and small hammers are
most often used by burglars. Burglars continue to flourish
because police can only clear about 13% of all reported burglaries
and rarely catch the thief in the act.
Although home burglaries may seem random in occurrence, they
actually involve a selection process. The burglar's selection
process is simple. Choose an unoccupied home with the easiest
access, the greatest amount of cover, and with the best escape
routes. What follows is a list of suggestions to minimize
your risk by making your home unattractive to potential burglars.
Doors and Locks
The first step is to "harden the target" or make your home
more difficult to enter. Remember, the burglar will simply
bypass your home if it requires too much effort or requires
more skill and tools than they possess. Most burglars enter
via the front, back, or garage doors. Experienced burglars
know that the garage door is usually the weakest point of
entry followed by the back door. The garage and back doors
also provide the most cover. Burglars know to look inside
your car for keys and other valuables so keep it locked, even
when parked inside your garage. Use high quality Grade-1 or
Grade-2 locks on exterior doors to resist twisting, prying,
and lock-picking attempts. A quality dead bolt lock will have
a beveled casing to inhibit the use of channel-lock pliers
used to shear off lock cylinder pins. A quality door knob-in-lock
set will have a 'dead latch' mechanism to prevent slipping
the lock with a shim or credit card.
The most common way used to force entry through a door with a wooden jamb is to simply kick it open. The weakest point is almost always the lock strike plate that holds the latch or lock bolt in place. The average door strike plate is secured only by the soft-wood doorjamb molding. These lightweight moldings are often tacked on to the door frame and can be torn away with a firm kick. Because of this construction flaw, it makes sense to upgrade to a four-screw, heavy-duty, high security strike plate. They are available in most quality hardware stores and home improvement centers and are definitely worth the extra expense. Install this heavy-duty strike plate using 3-inch wood screws to cut deep into the door frame stud. Use these longer screws in the knob lock strike plate as well and use at least one long screw in each door hinge. This one step alone will deter or prevent most through-the-door forced entries. You and your family will sleep safer in the future.
- Use a solid core or metal door for all entrance points
- Use a quality, heavy-duty, dead bolt lock with a one-inch throw bolt
- Use a quality, heavy-duty, knob-in-lock set with a dead-latch mechanism
- Use a heavy-duty, four-screw, strike plate with 3-inch screws to penetrate into a wooden door frame
- Use a wide-angle 160° peephole mounted no higher than 58 inches
Sliding-Glass Patio Doors
Sliding glass doors are secured by latches not locks. They are vulnerable to being forced open from the outside because of these inherently defective latch mechanisms. This can be easily be prevented by inserting a wooden dowel or stick into the track thus preventing or limiting movement. Other blocking devices available are metal fold-down blocking devices called "charley bars" and various track-blockers that can be screwed down.
The blocking devices described above solve half the equation. Older sliding glass doors can be lifted up and off their track and thereby defeat the latch mechanism. To prevent lifting, you need to keep the door rollers in good condition and properly adjusted. You can also install anti-lift devices such as a pin that extends through both the sliding and fixed portion of the door. There are also numerous locking and blocking devices available in any good quality hardware store that will prevent a sliding door from being lifted or forced horizontally. Place highly visible decals on the glass door near the latch mechanism that indicates that an alarm system, a dog, or block watch/operation identification is in place. Burglars dislike alarm systems and definitely big barking dogs.
- Use a secondary blocking device on all sliding glass doors
- Keep the latch mechanism in good condition and properly adjusted
- Keep sliding door rollers in good condition and properly adjusted
- Use anti-lift devices such as through-the-door pins or upper track screws
- Use highly visible alarm decals, beware of dog decals or block watch decal
Windows are left unlocked and open at a much higher rate than doors. An open window, visible from the street or alley, may be the sole reason for your home to be selected by a burglar. Ground floor windows are more susceptible to break-ins for obvious reasons. Upper floor windows become attractive if they can be accessed from a stairway, tree, fence, or by climbing on balconies. Windows have latches, not locks and therefore should have secondary blocking devices to prevent sliding them open from the outside. Inexpensive wooden dowels and sticks work well for horizontal sliding windows and through-the-frame pins work well for vertical sliding windows. For ventilation, block the window open no more than six inches and make sure you can't reach in from the outside and remove the blocking device or reach through and unlock the door.
In sleeping rooms, these window blocking devices should be capable of being removed easily from the inside to comply with fire codes. Like sliding glass doors, anti-lift devices are necessary for ground level and accessible aluminum windows that slide horizontally. The least expensive and easiest method is to install screws half-way into the upper track of the movable glass panel to prevent it from being lifted out in the closed position. As a deterrent, place highly visible decals on the glass door near the latch mechanism that indicates that an alarm system, a dog, or block watch/operation identification system is in place.
Be a Good Neighbor
- Secure all accessible windows with secondary blocking devices
- Block accessible windows open no more than 6 inches for ventilation
- Make sure someone cannot reach through an open window and unlock the door
- Make sure someone cannot reach inside the window and remove the blocking device
- Use anti-lift devices to prevent window from being lifted out
- Use crime prevention or alarm decals on ground accessible windows
Good neighbors should look out for each other. Get to know your neighbors on each side of your home and the three directly across the street. Invite them into your home, communicate often, and establish trust. Good neighbors will watch out for your home or apartment when you are away, if you ask them. They can report suspicious activity to the police or to you while you are away. Between them, good neighbors can see to it that normal services continue in your absence by allowing vendors to mow your lawn or remove snow. Good neighbors can pick up your mail, newspapers, handbills, and can inspect the outside or inside of your home periodically to see that all is well. Good neighbors will occasionally park in your driveway to give the appearance of occupancy while you are on vacation.
Allowing a neighbor to have a key solves the problem of hiding a key outside the door. Experienced burglars know to look for hidden keys in planter boxes, under doormats, and above the ledge. Requiring a service vendor to see your neighbor to retrieve and return your house key will send the message that someone is watching. This neighborhood watch technique sets up what is called 'territoriality' which means that your neighbors will take ownership and responsibility for what occurs in your mini-neighborhood. This concept works in both single family homes communities and on apartment properties. This practice helps deter burglaries and other crimes in a big way. Of course for this to work, you must reciprocate and offer the same services.
- Get to know all your adjacent neighbors
- Invite them into your home and establish trust
- Agree to watch out for each other's home
- Do small tasks for each other to improve territoriality
- While on vacation, pick up newspapers, and flyers
- Offer to park your car in their driveway
- Return the favor and communicate often